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Buhari to set up special courts for looters

The Federal Government has begun moves to establish special courts to
try corruption-related cases as part of the efforts to fight graft in
the country.
Investigations on Friday revealed that President Muhammadu Buhari was
opting for a comprehensive onslaught against the problem of corruption
in the country.
It was learnt that the President had concluded plans to submit a bill
on the planned special anti-corruption courts to the National
Assembly.
It was also gathered that the Federal Government was planning to
establish 37 of the Special Courts to try corruption in the Federal
Capital Territory, Abuja and the 36 states of the Federation.
A top operative of one of the anti-graft agencies, who confided in one
of our correspondents, said that the Federal Government decided to set
up the planned special courts because of the long delay by regular
courts in deciding corruption-related cases.
It was further gathered that the President recently made a demand for
36 judges with the requisite integrity and boldness to decide cases in
line with the law and not according to influence of the people or the
pecuniary gains that come with associating with them.
The anti-graft officer said, “The President is being careful; he does
not want people to do a wishy-washy job for him.
“Buhari is pressing for the establishment of special courts to try
corruption cases. He wants the courts to be established in Abuja and
the 36 states of the federation so that they can fast-track such
cases.”
Investigations further revealed that the Federal Government had
contacted the National Judicial Council to provide judges with
impeccable reputation to preside over the planned courts.
It was gathered that the NJC released the names of 100 judges from the
36 states of the federation to the leadership of three major
anti-corruption bodies in the country after an internal process of
selection.
The judges were screened by operatives of the Economic and Financial
Crimes Commission, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related
Offences Commission and the Department of State Security on Tuesday.
It was gathered that the focus of the on-going screening exercise is
to identify judges with a passion for the law and the constitution
rather than deference to personalities.
The officer stated, “On Tuesday, the NJC forwarded the list of 100
judges to the anti-corruption agencies for screening. The exercise is
meant to select the judges for the special courts the President is
moving to establish to try corruption cases.
“The plan is to get judges that are bold, courageous, and fearless.
Many of them must have delivered sound judgements (in the past). They
don’t want those who play to the gallery.
“The screening exercise is very intensive; they are passing through
the NJC that has the list of all the judges. When the NJC is through
with its screening, it passes the list of the judges to security
operatives and the anti-graft agencies to continue with the
investigation.
“And because this is a democracy, they have to go through acceptable
legal channels; they have to amend the constitution to set up these
courts. They want to start with speed; even the legislatures have to
be involved to amend the constitution.”
It was also learnt that the anti-graft agencies screened the judges by
doing background checks on them, particularly looking at their history
at the bench.
The source said, “We are working on the information we got about them
(the judges). There are those who have been compromised in the past,
who will not be part of the arrangement.”
But the anti-corruption agencies are not saying much about the
on-going screening exercise, which is said to have entered its second
phase.
When our correspondent contacted the Head of Media and Publicity of
the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, on the telephone on Friday, he said
that he was not aware of it.
“I am not aware of the exercise you are talking about,” he said.
Similarly, the Resident Consultant, Media and events of the ICPC, Mr.
Folu Olamiti, said that he could not comment on the story, when
contacted.
“I can’t comment on it,” he said.
Also, the Acting Director, Information, National Judicial Council, Mr.
Soji Oye, said he was not aware of any plan to create special
corruption courts.
It will be recalled that the EFCC Chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, had
in 2012, when he was being screened by the Senate, called for the
establishment of special courts for corruption cases.
He had said, “The reason for the clamour for special courts for
certain cases has to do with the processes of law. Judges have corrupt
cases and other cases to attend to, but if we have special courts for
corruption cases, it would facilitate the process. I don’t think it
will be too much to ask that a special court be dedicated to
corruption cases.”
Lagos lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo, and Executive Chairman of the
Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, Mr. Debo Adeniran, described the
plan to create special courts to handle corruption cases as a welcome
development.
But a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Joseph Nwobike, described the
establishment of such courts as needless.
Keyamo, however, urged the government to put certain resources and
laws in place for such special courts to achieve their intended goals.
He said, “Establishment of special courts will not solve the entire
problem of anti-corruption cases and it will not solve all the
problems of criminal cases. But it will go a long way if the courts
are well equipped and have rules that will help fast track such cases.
“Special courts will not address the integrity of judges that will be
sitting there. It is a welcome development and government should go
ahead to establish them but some things should be put in place for the
courts to achieve the intended goals.”
Adeniran also described the establishment of special corruption courts
as desirable. He said such courts would help in quick determination of
corruption cases.
He said, “It is desirable to the extent that it will hasten up the
adjudication on corruption cases and will make it easier for the
judges to handle.”
But Nwobike said that instead of creating special courts, government
should focus on capacity building to enhance the competence of
investigators and prosecutors.
He said, “It is needless. It will amount to waste of judicial
resources to set up special courts to try corruption cases.”
Frontiers Newspaper
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